Posts Tagged ‘friend’

A Good Night…

Size Doesn’t matter in Friendship.. by Sethulal Trekila, courtesy Creative Commons License

Tonight was a good night. My best girl friend came over to my house (I know!) and my parents cooked an amazing feast, and we watched The Magnificent Seven, which she’d never before seen.

Then afterwards, she borrowed our internet to quickly send off her resume to me by email, so that I can try to help her change her work community.

It was nice.

It can be just that simple. Doing favours for one another, making quick one-liner jokes during the silent parts of an old western, breaking bread…

Sometimes life gets in the way, our heads get in the way, of something that should be so simple. Two people making a connection and enjoying a couple of hours in the other’s company.

It doesn’t have to be torrential downpours of emotion, we don’t have to fix each other’s world in one night – or at all. Just passing some time. Speaking lightly, smiling, laughing, nothing serious except the pull of camaraderie.

It was pleasant. And I look forward to many more like it.

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How To Make Friends: Part 1

Friends

Successful friends courtesy stockimages/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As promised…

I don’t know much about keeping friends, but I do know a very little about making friends.

See I spent my childhood with only one or two friends at a time. I had a lot of time to observe.

Then I blossomed. I discovered drama, and theatre people, and figured out how to make friends.

You see, theatre people are a whole other species. Really. Anyone who has been or knows someone who has been a theatre person, knows this.

The actors spend their time observing humanity from the outside in, and performing to feel it from the inside out.

The writers observe and deliberate over nuance and context, seeing plot in every sentence.

The directors find relationship dynamics and power shifts in every movement, every volume level, feeling to pull those strings at the right time to form the right message.

The stage managers see everything. They know all. And they are everywhere.

The tech crew work harder than anyone gives them credit, creating art out of nothing, out of negative space, and for the most part, they do it smiling.

It was here I found my niche. You don’t become a theatre person. You just are one. Even after you sell out to corporate life for drugs and money.

So what are you?

What activity turns you on? What are you good at? What do you enjoy doing?

Because if you’re looking to attract new friends, that is where I would start. With something that, even if you don’t make a lasting people connection straight off the bat, at least you’ll have fun swinging.

My father played in a recreational baseball league until he was 50. My sister continues to play volleyball after college. My mother travels. Her spouse joins the Rotary club.

I read, and swim lengths, and go for walks and movies – all things that can be done in groups, but I usually end up solo.

Why? I don’t know.

I think that acting is my thing. I am an actor. Even though it’s not lucrative (for me), and it’s time consuming (like you wouldn’t believe, unless, you know… you know), theatre people, they are my people. That is the one social circle I’ve ever felt like I fit into.

Who are your people?

If you don’t know, if you’ve never had that “Aha, click” moment of just sliding into place, start with an activity you’ve always wanted to try.

But mostly, I’d think of the things you remember doing as a kid. My sister, and father, and mother, and stepmom all played sports – competition is their thing.

I’ve liked reading and imagining myself in stories and imagining stories around me since I could read. Having an audience’s attention without having them staring at me, myself, is all I could ever ask for out of life. It just is. But I would go nuts if I had to talk about fouls and technicalities and scoring averages. I just don’t care about winning or losing in that sense. I see the beauty of sport, but the competition part just misses me.

So – do you like talking sports? See if you can join an adult recreation league in your area. Or hang out on game night at your local watering hole instead of in your own den.

Enjoy the arts? Join your local community theatre, or volunteer to usher at performances.

Is food or cooking what gets you going? Take some classes in a cuisine that’s unfamiliar to you, or learn how to frost cakes with all those flowers and leaves.

Love languages? There’s usually “X” as a second language courses at your local college or university.

Whatever it is, once you’re there, find one person who you find approachable, and strike up a conversation. It may be difficult at first. But just start with one person. Listen, and share your thoughts. It will get easier.

There is something about surviving something – even something as small as a play, a season, an exam – that bonds people together. You stop being a collection of individuals and become Mme. Leclerc’s 6:00 class. Or the cast of Footloose. Or the Flaming Weasels, most improved team of the season…

Whatever it is, as long as it’s an activity you enjoy, and you can do it with others who enjoy it, you will find a community, and you will find that you belong.

Breaking Out: Getting Over Yourself

Time to Break Out

Jail courtesy Arvind Balaraman/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I don’t know if it’s natural, but it seems fairly common with myself and those around me to put up these walls around ourselves. These fences, and signs that say “Private! Keep Out”

Now, in my gregarious days of excessive flirtation I was a natural at knocking these down. Dashing used to say that it didn’t matter how much he would barricade the entry to something, I’d come in through a window or the chimney or something and kick down the door from within.

These days, it seems I am a natural at putting them up.

It sneaks up on you. You think you’re doing it to protect others, to keep the dangerous parts of yourself, the messy emotions, the things they don’t want to hear from them. Or maybe you’re just hiding the white-hot pain to keep people from tracking their muddy work-boots all over it. Maybe it’s self-preservation. Maybe it’s to try to preserve them.

It doesn’t really matter. Because eventually you realize you’re alone, in a house with concrete walls, barbed wire fences, boarded windows, and seventeen locks on the doors, and you don’t know where you put the keys. You’re trapped.

What was your refuge, your safety zone, is now your prison.

And you start to hate them for abandoning you there.

Nevermind that the “Stay Away” “Electrified Fencing” and “Trespassers will be prosecuted” signs are all in your handwriting… You are trapped, and alone, and you hate them for not noticing, or for not staying, for not pushing back. For not wedging their work-boot in the doorway. For not coming down the chimney to join you.

Well, I hate to tell ya, sweetie, but it’s rough all over.

They have their own prisons they’re building. Or maybe they’re building a house o’ dreams, but you nixed the neighbourhood barbecue because they wanted to host it on your lawn, and now they have fences, white picket fences to be sure, but fences none-the-less keeping you out.

But you can’t stay alone, trapped in your fortress forever. You know it. But maybe you need to hear it. You cannot stay alone.

Because eventually you would die, and if the only people to notice your death are Revenue Services, well, that is so much scarier than reaching out.

So you break off the boards covering your windows. You look out and see your very safe lawn for the first time in eons. You struggle to wrench up the screeching window, as it protests the entire time. You climb out. And breathe. And reach out between the links on your electrified fence, hoping to touch someone passing by. Eventually, you get brave and climb over the barbed wire topping. Your body armour snags on the top and you have to leave it behind.

You land, vulnerable, on the sidewalk. And realize, from this side of your fortress, those picket fences keeping you out of your friends’ yards? Well, they’re ankle-high. Not insurmountable like you’d thought. But still, you have to be the one to get over them.

This is the hardest part. Telling people what you need, and trusting them to help you get it. Reaching out so that they can have the opportunity to reach back. You can’t just fall, and trust that they’ll catch you. You have to let them know that you are falling, and that you need them to catch you.

Shame is the biggest obstacle here. No one likes being the one falling. No one likes doing it in front of an audience. It is so easy to curl in on yourself and dig a hole to hide in, but that hole just becomes a tunnel heading back to your fortress of solitude. Death and taxes. That is all that is waiting there for you.

So to the walls, and the fences, and the pride, and the shame, I say…

Get over it already.

The Benefits of Friendship

I'm totally the one pulling the other out into the beyond!

My Friend courtesy Dino De Luca/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Today was a good day. And not just a happy car ride ego boost either. It was  good.

Dashing and I had lunch on Sunday, the first time we had seen each other since our final date night, and it was nice, awkward, and hard, and fun, and nice.

Yesterday was rough. But I managed to reach out to my best girl friend and cry on her shoulder (on a weeknight, just call me Miss Social!), and this morning I woke up and just knew that I was going to rock the sh*t out of being Dashing’s friend.

I love him, yes. I am head over heels in love with him, true. But that was also true back when we were “just friends,” I was just fortunate enough to be in denial then.

So today instead of suppressing all my love and raw nerve-y emotions, I just, well, let them live and breathe outside of me. It sounds like such crap, but I really just focused on being his friend and remembering what that was like.

And it was good. I didn’t burst into tears when he called. I was genuinely excited to text and talk to him. I was hungry for the first time in a month.

I look forward to seeing him again. And hearing about his plans, and letting him know when I come across things that interest him.

I don’t know what it is about many long-term romantic relationships that I’ve seen or been a part of, but it seems like we forget how to just enjoy our partners. How to take an interest in a day that was exactly the same as the one before, how to make plans without taking the other for granted, how to talk about things outside of “where do we stand, where are we going, and who’s going to clean the dishes along the way.”

And the flirting! Dashing and I aren’t quite there yet, but I am really looking forward to it, because for the first time, I think it might happen. Again.

Love can be a really heavy thing. It is serious and huge, but it can also be light and freeing. I think I forgot that, and then I tried to force it to be light and fun, and wow, did that not work! I was so excited to have found the serious and huge love that I wanted to revel in the solemnity. Dashing, wise man that he is, and this being his second crack at the huge seriousness that is forever tried to tell me to just enjoy.

I have a hard time living in the now.

I would look back wistfully on our very passionate beginning, and then look forward to our mysterious, exciting, daring future. And I just wanted to get there. To find out what is was going to be. Or go back, to the sex all hours of the night and day, and passionate kisses hello and goodbye, when everything is new and marvelous.

I’m a go-getter. I set my sights on something and I go for it, whole-heartedly. Sometimes I trip and land on my face, or walk into a wall, sometimes I get lost along the way. But it is always entertaining, and I’m always moving towards something.

So you know what? He needs me to be his friend right now, I can do that. Because I never stopped being his friend. I just forgot how to let the friendship shine, because I was so excited by how much I loved him. I didn’t know I could love someone this much. Honestly, I kinda always thought those ingenues were lying or exaggerating or brain damaged or something.

Because “You are my everything?” How loaded is that? Also, how sad?? He is your EVERYTHING? Like your job and your family and your friends and your hobby and everything???

But I kind of get it now. Because while I wouldn’t build a life around Dashing, I really want to build a life with Dashing. Around what’s best for each of us, and both of us together.

This journey is going to be tough. And rocky. But it will be worth it, because no matter how it ends up, I’m going to learn and grow, and I’m going to get to do a fair chunk of that with him, and for him, and because of him. And isn’t that really essentially what I asked for when I said I wanted to live with him?

Work Friends: The High Road

High Road Please!

High Or Low Road Directions courtesy Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So it finally happened. I managed to reach through the corporate veneer and offend someone… I’m actually surprised it took this long.

Maybe it’s because I’m really rather blunt. Maybe it’s the Smart Woman Syndrome attacking. Maybe it was just an off day for both of us.

It was last week, and this colleague asked me for advice – she was getting an error and didn’t know what it meant.

So I asked a few questions and tried to figure it out with her. Once I had a better grasp, I advised her on what she should do from there.

I’m looking at her while I’m explaining the process, and she’s getting all flushed, and she keeps interrupting to make defenses and her voice is starting to raise.

So I said, “I’m not attacking you.”

And she said, “But in a way, you are.”

And I said apologetically, “No, I’m just trying to advise you of the best practice in this situation. I’m never attacking you. Not ever.”

So I wrapped up as quickly as I could and got the heck out of there.

And she hasn’t spoken to me since. Even when we meet face to face in the kitchenette or bathroom. Worse, I think she’s encouraging other members of the team to avoid me.

I am acting as though it is all in my head. I continue to greet her, and try to remain unfazed by her stony silence.

Fortunately, she’s leaving the position for another within the company in twenty days, otherwise I might push to hash out our differences and resolve the communication problem (I like to hash things out). Part of me still really wants to ask her for feedback, so that I can grow my communication skills, but the bigger part of me says that would be opening a can of worms bigger than I can control, so….. no.

Anyway, I just really don’t get the silent treatment. I mean it doesn’t particularly bother me, because, well, I have work to do, but this is someone I did consider to be a friend. I don’t understand why she wouldn’t just tell me, “Hey, here’s where I think you were out of line. I’d like an apology.” Or even, “I don’t feel comfortable talking with you right now, so unless it’s work related…”

But this nothing??? It smacks a little of sixth grade. Which is maybe why I don’t mind so much, because really? Really??

Oh well, while she’s sulking, I’m getting lots of work done.

How would you handle a work situation like this?

And my super power is…

Super power is orbital money??

Flying Businessman by digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

OK, I don’t actually know what my super power is. Maybe the ability to come up with a very detailed and efficient plan super quickly? Or perfecting the junk food medley by situation and companions?

Anyway, it just so happens that whatever my super power is, I am also the best ex-girlfriend ever.

I dated a guy, we’ll call him The Scientist, for three years. It was my longest relationship to that point.

He was funny, sarcastic, loyal, and could be quite sweet. When he wasn’t being arrogant that is. In all reality, I was quite in love with him, and he was very much in love with me. We were going to have smart, crazy babies, and live a very suburban life.

Except I wouldn’t move in with him without a ring on my finger, and he wouldn’t propose without having lived together first.

And then he moved to Italy as part of his PhD work, for nine months. And I swore I would wait.

Well, yeah… Long distance is hard, yo. I couldn’t do it. I mean I tried, and I know he was trying in his own way, but we just didn’t have the communication mesh to make it work. Not to mention while he was away, all those friends I’d neglected seeing came back into light – those friends he felt awkward around, and didn’t particularly enjoy, um, at all.

So we broke up. In that messy, god-awful long distance way, over Messenger and Facebook and Skype… And then he came back into town on Hallowe’en.

And I picked him up at the airport, and brought him home with me to my parent’s house, and the four of us lived together for an awkward and, at times, torturous three and a half weeks while he found an apartment. Then I helped move all the stuff I had been storing for him into the new apartment.

I am the best ex-girlfriend ever.

Then he didn’t speak to me or my family for three years. He didn’t even personally thank my parents for their hospitality. And in my father’s book, that is practically a sin.

But he was raised by wolves – or well, lawyers…

Anyway, three years later, I get an email out of the blue from The Scientist. He wants to meet, catch up, be friends again.

I breathe my sigh of relief that he is a) alive, b) well enough to type, c) over me enough to want to be friends (or possibly under me enough still to use it as a ploy…)

Then I contemplate letting him back into my life. See, it was messy. And we want totally different kinds of things out of life, and basic human decorum has different standards between us.

So we meet, and chat, and it’s heartbreaking, but over in an hour and a half. We hug, and promise to stay in touch. But before I go, I mention that he really ought to give a call or pop an email to my dad and let him know, hey, thanks for hosting me by the way, it was a tough time, you made it easier. Whatever works. I go home and warn my parents he may call so that they’re not too weird trying to figure out who the h*ll is on the other end. And that’s the last I hear from him for six months.

Until he phones my house. And speaks to father to ask for me. And still doesn’t thank him. All he wants to know is if I’m up to hanging out tonight (Saturday night). I decline, because I honestly didn’t know what to say.

I never thought I’d have to make it a condition that he thank my parents for us to be friends again, but frankly, if I have to make it a condition, I’m not sure I want to be friends.

Then again, this totally falls under the “basic human decorum” differences between us, so maybe, since we’re not dating, he doesn’t have to respect my family’s values in order to just be friends with me…

But he should respect my values, right?

So now I don’t know what to do. Obviously, talk to him. But to what end? Do I really want to go through all the effort of being heard and making him feel like a jerk, or do I just let the relationship go the way of most relationships past…?

What do you think?

The Unspoken…

"Cemetery" by njaj/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image “Cemetery” courtesy of njaj/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

OK. It’s been awhile. Clearly, this journaling thing is more difficult than it used to be. Especially when you need a working computer and an internet connection to get it done. But I digress…

Here, we discuss communities. How to build them, where to find them, how to keep them, when to let them go…. But what do you do when someone elects to leave your community?

Whether it’s because of a fight, a divorce, or the slow continental shift of growing apart – it’s never easy. But at least in those instances you get the choice to work at the relationship, to continue to include them in your community, or to let them gracefully exit.

What about when that choice is taken from you? When someone elects to leave your community… permanently?

Suicide.

There. I said it.

For many this is an unfathomable concept, and when someone chooses this path to leave you, it can feel like a personal assault on reason. When you can never imagine taking this path, never have considered it, the idea that someone you love, admire, and respect choosing it is irreconcilable with your image of that person.

For those of us (and yes, I’m coming out and including myself here) who have considered the dark and shady path… well, things are less black and white. Not easier, necessarily. Just grey-er. Muddier. Murkier… yes, I like murkier.

My story (the not-so-short version): I was a smart kid. Too smart, fairly sensitive to the approval of authority figures, and frankly, I never quite fit in most places. I was that dreamy kid who’d rather spend recess reading or making shapes of clouds or imagining I was Kate from The Perilous Gard…. (Elizabeth Marie Pope, thank you for your story by the way) I was not an athlete, at least not on land (man, can I swim, and I am almost certain I can fly). My entire family is made up of athletes. Competitive athletes. National calibre athletes. Of land, water, and (possibly) air. My mother is sociable, and I am sure she had this fantastic image of her popular, athletic daughters surrounding her and going on shopping sprees and asking her for advice, and working out with her…. and well, that never happened. At least, not willingly on my part.

So I was thirteen, I was angry, and convinced that my mother loved my sister more than me. I wrote an angry, honest letter and hid it under my mattress. I felt unloved, but mostly, unnoticed. Unseen for the unique things I could bring to life, to our family, to a community. Would anyone notice if I just left? If I ran away and lived somewhere where they couldn’t find me and make me feel not good enough anymore? (I was thirteen and dramatic… seriously dramatic) What would happen if I died? Would they mourn? Would they see me then?

Then my father found my letter. And read it. And talked to me about it. See, in my emotional turmoil of puberty and despair and low self-esteem, I had neglected to think about him. My beautiful, fantastic, smart, capable, loving father, who raised my sister and I on his own. Who loved me. Always. And made sure that I knew it. Who celebrated my interests and listened to my stories and encouraged me without making me feel ashamed. He would be destroyed if I left; he would be utterly and completely destroyed if I died. Especially if I chose to die.

So, I cried. And I focused on life, and the pursuits I loved, and anytime those lonely, tenacious tendrils of darkness reached out for me, I thought of him. And knew I was loved, and that I couldn’t destroy someone who loved me.

Then in high school one of my fellows hanged himself. And the principal announced it over the PA that he had passed away. And I was angry. Enraged. No physically healthy teenager passes away. Suicide is violent. It is a wrathful tear in the fabric of life, of the community consciousness, not to mention of the mind and spirit of the victim himself.

Yes, I say victim of suicide. Because while I had my devoted father to pull me back from the brink, he somehow didn’t. I’m sure his parents loved him, I know his friends cared, why was that not enough? Why in those moments, days, weeks, before tying the noose did nobody spring to his mind that he knew would be destroyed if he left them? Why did I have a visceral link to life, an umbilical cord tethering me here, and he did not? Why, in his world, was there no one?

Just to be clear, I’m sure if people had known what he was about to do they would have risen up en masse to stop him. I am sure of that in almost any suicide.

My point is that, in this boys pain, in his world, the place where he existed (yes, I’ve gone a little Descartes, try to keep up), he believed he had no one. No one who would stop him. No one who saw him. So he would show them. I believe suicide is at once a martyr-like attempt to remove oneself from troubling those around oneself, from taking up space when one is so clearly not wanted, and a grand performance. If people don’t see you, fine, they won’t have to look around you for much longer, but you’ll leave them an image they’ll never forget.

People have called it selfish, and I can understand that perspective. It is certainly self-indulgent. But I think most people who go through with it, have convinced themselves that they are doing their community a favour.

So, murky. Yeah.

Now, in my late twenties, I am faced with suicide again. This time it is not someone I know. But someone I am close to has just lost a relative. A relative who had kids, no less.

I’m wise enough to keep my murky opinions to myself, at least while wounds are still fresh. But how do you comfort a family through this?

My friend is desperately trying to rationalize the unfathomable. For he is one of those aforementioned people for whom this thought is not only not an option, but I don’t think it’s ever come up. And now he’s faced with trying to understand it. Trying to reconcile that dear relative who took him aside to show him a corner of the world, that really cool guy that he wanted to grow up to be just exactly like, that husband, that father, that uncle… this volunteer corpse.

Thoughts? Suggestions? Let’s talk about the unspoken… Surviving suicide. Those who have thought and not attempted, those who have attempted and (thankfully, ironically) failed, those who have survived those who attempted and (ironically, disastrously) succeeded, welcome. How did you get through it?

It takes a…

OK, so this blogging thing is all kinds of new to me, but I’d like to begin with the idea which has been circling ’round my head enough to start this whole blogging thing.

It takes a village to raise a child.

But what if you don’t have a village? What if you’re a child that’s “done been raised?” Does that mean you’re no longer in need of a village? Or that you should already be firmly installed in “your” village?

It’s so easy when you’re in school to find where you fit in, or perhaps more impactfully, where you don’t, but what about those mid-to-late twenty somethingers, not to mention the newly married, newly divorced, and the newly retired?

How in this world of fast-food, constant commuting, and technologically driven communication does one build or evolve a community?

Am I crazy in thinking that we need interaction to live and grow? And that it’s really difficult to find and maintain??

Now I am in no way a biology or environmental science expert, but I do have some idea tickling the back of my brain that ecosystems are incredibly important to survival. And taken less literally, ecosystems are an excellent metaphor for living versus surviving.

An ecosystem is defined as:
“[A] system in nature contain[ing] living things (including people), their physical environment (land, water, climate) and the life processes that enables the system to sustain itself and evolve.”

Now, let’s get the literal implication over first. We, as a species, seem to have a bizarre need for “bigger and better”, which usually translates to easier and more convenient. Which causes our farmlands and forests (ecosystems!) to be destroyed for suburbs, or “development,” a totally different (and not independently sustainable) kind of ecosystem. Now quite honestly, I’m not so naive to think that my talking about this is going to stop people from making money off of the destruction of beautiful landscapes, and, actually, I’m not so ardent a tree-hugger to start petitions or chain myself to redwoods, but the point does need to be made that “country living” is darn near impossible these days, unless you are independently wealthy, in retirement with a fabulous nest egg, or willing to commute an hour and a half each way.

Now let’s get to the metaphor. The living components (things that aren’t air, or soil, or water) in an ecosystem breakdown in a simplified fashion thus:

Givers/Producers: create food for themselves and others (like plants).

Takers/Eaters: vegetarian or omnivore, people gotta eat.

Cleaners/Decomposers: take all the garbage and turn it into nutrients for the producers to use…

The ciiiircle of life…

So the metaphor goes like this: Everyone knows at least one person who is constantly giving. They’re just that generous. They have that much energy, they get everyone going. They’re motivators. They’re the Givers.

Then you have the people who just take. They use all that energy and good vibes and material gifts that the Givers have provided them, and they use it. They get jobs done, and leave someone else to clean up the crap. They’re the Takers.

Then there are the people who are constantly cleaning up the crap. They manage to turn junk into useful items again. They pick you up and show you how that giant obstacle, is actually a giant opportunity. They help you clean house, and start fresh. They’re the Cleaners.

Now each of us should play each of these roles in different scenarios, different relationships, and different times. Ideally. But there’s probably one that each of us identifies with predominantly. My theory, is that we should surround ourselves with complimentary people – if I’m a Taker, I’m gonna need a Giver and a Cleaner, right? And if I’m stuck constantly Cleaning, I want someone to Give me the motivation to move on to helping others or (gasp!) Taking for myself once in a while.

So what happens when you feel yourself to be a tiny little island?

Student living and me.

Just life. But through the eyes of a Blue-eyed History student.

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